Almanac

Viewpoint - March 24, 2010

Guest opinion: Why Measure C is important to us

by Sean and Heidi Monahan

We just found out a few weeks ago that our son's beloved kindergarten teacher, whom we will call Teacher Smith to protect the teacher's privacy, will be pink-slipped/let go (due to budget cuts and seniority reasons, not performance reasons) this June if Measure C does not pass.

Why would this be a tragedy? Let us count the ways:

• When you were a kid, do you remember being disappointed that you could not be at school instead of on vacation? Even on our best family vacation this year (where he was having a great time), our son could not wait to get back to Teacher Smith's class.

• How many of you had a teacher growing up who took a personal interest in the well-being of all his/her students, including their psychological and physical health as well as their scholastic achievement? Teacher Smith is very effectively part-parent, part-big brother, part-teacher, part-disciplinarian and part-empathetic listener, helper and coach.

• When there are special events — the December holidays, Valentine's Day, Teacher Smith's birthday — the students and parents consistently and voluntarily go above and beyond to thank Teacher Smith for the teacher's compassion and service.

• Teacher Smith is always innovative and creative — starting with the guitar/banjo that Teacher Smith uses to teach the students about 15 percent of the time. Having seen this first-hand, we can vouch that this is a very effective and unique way of imparting key lessons to our children while also helping our children to enjoy their learning experiences.

• Like almost every kindergartener parent whom we know, we have had a few incidents this year (most minor, but one major) that required Teacher Smith to call us and work some things out. Teacher Smith's excellent and timely judgment, intellect, compassion, awareness/perceptiveness, confidentiality, fairness and professionalism have exceeded our expectations in every way.

• Finally, our 5-year-old son and 3-year-old daughter don't always see eye-to-eye (imagine that), but on one thing they are both crystal clear: our son loves Teacher Smith and our daughter, who has met Teacher Smith and always hears about Teacher Smith from our son, is adamant that when she gets to kindergarten in 18 months, her teacher is going to be Teacher Smith.

For any of you who have read Robert Fulghum's 1989 classic, "All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten," Teacher Smith brings all the best things about kindergarten to life for the students. It would be a catastrophic loss to us at our school to lose the valuable contributions, capabilities, creativity, caring, character and caliber of excellence of Teacher Smith.

If Measure C is not passed, there are a total of 14 Menlo Park teachers and three other staff members (including Teacher Smith) who may lose their jobs due to these budget cuts. In addition several valuable programs at all four schools in the district will be reduced or eliminated, such as hands-on science, music, art, foreign language, library, physical education and struggling-student programs.

So, to put it in comparative terms, there are many things that we and our families value each year: our Starbuck's/Peet's beverages; dinners out with our spouses or families; occasional family vacations and outings; our extracurricular/sports activities for our children after school and on weekends; our Scouting memberships and activities; our Wii's, Xbox 360's and PlayStation 3's; our favorite newspapers and magazines; cable TV; and so on. For less money than we spend on each of these valuable items and activities — indeed, for less than 50 cents a day — we can vote yes on Measure C and enable our children to continue to get one of the best educations in this state and nation. We hope that you will join us in doing so.

Sean and Heidi Monahan live on Orange Avenue in Menlo Park.

About Measure C

Measure C is a mail-in vote. Ballots will be mailed out to residents in the Menlo Park City School District between April 5 and 12, and completed ballots must be returned by May 4 to be counted (postmarks do not count) — hence most organizations are recommending getting your completed ballots in the mail no later than April 28.

Measure C is a seven-year parcel tax of $178 a year on the residents in the Menlo Park City School District. The annual cost will be adjusted for inflation. Very importantly, every dollar raised by Measure C will go directly to our Menlo Park schools and cannot be taken away by the state. A senior citizen exemption is available.

Since 2000 enrollment in the district has grown by over 30 percent (610 students) and is projected to grow an additional 14 percent (more than 300 students) in the next seven years. As a California basic aid school district, the district does not receive additional funding for each new student. These facts, coupled with the state budget cuts and lower property values (which leads to less property taxes being collected to fund education on a state-wide level), have led our district to project a $2 million deficit for the 2010-11 school year. Hence the need for Measure C. One other key point: As we all know, keeping our vibrant Menlo Park schools strong and in demand also helps many of us keep our property values stronger and in higher demand, too.

For more information, see http://www.keepourschoolsstrong.org

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